Love languages, a card in the mail, & other musings…

One of the books that helped theBean & I learn to communicate love for each other in the “language” we best receive it is called “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In it, he identifies the 5 primary ways that people receive & give love – if you’ve never read it, they are:

  • Giving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Words of encouragement

TheBean & I discovered that we come at this whole ‘expressing love” in completely different ways: she’s a quality time & acts of service person, & I am a physical touch & words of encouragement person. Which means, by default, we often ‘communicated love’ in our own love language… & we were both frustrated. Until I discovered that all I had to do to make theBean feel loved was wash the dishes. Help out more around the house. Arrange for dates for the 2 of us to interact, face to face, with full eye contact (NOTE: sitting next to each other on the couch watching TV is NOT quality time. Trust me on this.) And she has taken to writing me notes & taking time to snuggle, hold hands, & generally grope me in the best sense of the word.

With that information as background…

Yesterday, I received something Awesome. Yes, Capital “A” Awesome. From the title of this post, you can probably guess what it was… a card from a dear friend. In the mail. Sent via the U.S. Postal Service. It’s not even my birthday.  Yet… (only 15 more days until it is. But I digress.)

Not an email. Not a text. A card you can open & read & re-read. (I save all the cards that people give/send me with the good words in them so I can ‘feed my soul’ when I need it.)

The card was sent to say “thank you.” Some really great things are happening in my friend’s life & this thoughtful friend wanted to thank me for my involvement in helping her to discover some things about herself, her giftings, & most importantly, the truth about how God sees, loves, & values her.

And she took the time to send a card. It made my day & was a great source of encouragement to me.

And it made me think about how simple, thoughtful acts like this can have such a profound impact on us.

And it made me want to take the time to do the same thing for others, encourage them, build them up, & remind them that they’re special.

And I’m thankful for them.

And so I will do that.



fellowship, encouragement, new discoveries, & other musings…

…and so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius & Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God, & took courage… Acts 28:14-17

Paul was in Rome.

And the first thing he experienced there was an in person meeting and greeting with fellow Christians who had traveled 50-60 miles to visit him (from the Forum of Appius.)

Put yourself in Paul’s shoes – in the previous years, he had experienced abandonment, rejection, constant persecution, wrongful accusations. He was treated like a criminal, had survived several assassination attempts, and even recovered from a stoning. He’d been imprisoned in Jewish & Roman strongholds, had weathered the temperamental whims of Caesarean governor & had even lived through a shipwreck.

Then, upon arriving in Rome, he encounters brothers & sisters in Christ, a vivid reminder that he isn’t (& won’t be!) alone in this place; they are a flesh & blood fulfillment of God’s promises & goodness to Paul; their very presence caused him to give thanks to God, & also to be encouraged. He was filled to overflowing, & his time in Rome was characterized by his “proclaiming the kingdom of God & teaching about the LORD Jesus Christ with all boldness, & without hindrance.”

This is fellowship. Mutual encouragement. Being strengthened, & strengthening others in return. Based fully on the commonality of having been brought from death to life, darkness to light, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Years ago, I traveled to Birmingham, Englad with a couple of friends in preparation for a mission trip; we didn’t know a soul there, but had heard that there was a Christian church that we could visit. We made our way there, & found a small group of brothers & sisters meeting together for a meal & worship.

Though they’d never met us, they welcomed us to their table & into their midst with open arms. There was a tangible feeling that we were among family, & that we had something in common that bound us together in a way that only happens with the fellowship with other believers.

We talked, laughed, sang, & prayed. They prayed for us, speaking words of knowledge, encouragement, hope & faith that touched our hearts to the very core. I can remember looking across the room through the candlelight at this gathering of believers, knowing that we were bound together, in Christ, & that I knew I loved them & what’s more, that they loved me.

A few days later, when we parted, I had the distinct sense that I wouldn’t ever see many (most? All?) of these people again. But I also knew that when I did, here & in Heaven, that we’d run to embrace each other, & to celebrate the goodness & grace of our LORD Jesus Christ that sustains us from day to day.

a little encouragement to stand, & other musings…

I really appreciate the “little” reminders of God’s faithful protection and grace in my life. It’s not that I need to hear something every morning to keep me going, or come across The Perfect Verses Of Encouragement in my scripture reading to stay on track. In fact, it seems that most of my life has been “…a long obedience in the same direction.” However, some of my most difficult life situations were able to be navigated because of a well-timed encouragement from the LORD in prayer; or a note written by a friend who’d been praying for me & was prompted to pass something on.

One specific time, Dick Mills, a well-known and very prophetic Bible teacher, picked theBean & I out of a church service and quoted 2Samuel 23:11,12 – He said, “You’re going to go through hard, hard things. But you’ll remain standing, & will come out smelling like a rose!”

Sure enough, over the next months, we endured some of our most challenging times in our ministry and personal life… and many times, revisited and rehearsed the word we’d received, holding tight to God’s promises to bring us out the other side. He did, and I’m still thankful for those timely words.

In reading through Acts 23, I think that the Apostle Paul appreciated the encouragements he received from the LORD. He’d been stoned at Lystra. Survived a riot at Ephesus. Navigated mobs at Thessalonica and Berea. Been threatened with violence and death countless times. And that’s not even considering the death mobs in Jerusalem. So when the LORD stood by him one night and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome,” it had to be a point of celebration, and a boost to his faith. Not because he was a fearful man, but because God was reminding him, “Don’t look at your circumstances. Don’t listen to the threats and plots against your life. I am your protector, and you still have a mission.”

So the next day, when he was informed there were 40 killers lying in wait to murder him, he didn’t worry what might happen next, for God was WITH him, and with absolute surety, Paul knew that He would never leave him or forsake him. No matter what.

And God even cared enough to encourage Paul, a little reminder of His goodness.

This is our God.

the Good Shepherd & other musings on the 1st day of Spring(?)

Acts 20 tells of the Apostle Paul’s last interactions with the elders and church leaders from Ephesus. He’d spent 3 years among these precious people, and he knew by the leading of the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t see them again. To me, this makes Paul’s words here that much more significant – knowing that they are his last ones, and that for sure he wanted to make them count:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.

I hear echoes of Jesus’ words from John 10… “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…” So many things come to mind with these words… the great responsibility and honor of being a shepherd to God’s people – the value of each person to God – the desperate need for vigilance in the life of the shepherd to guard against the ‘wolves’ that would inevitably come.

Going deeper, Paul’s charge to the Ephesian elders started with “pay careful attention to yourselves…” And I know that caring for others starts with caring for ME. Making sure to nurture my first love. To make sure I am living within a healthy life rhythm. Watching my doctrine carefully. Monitoring my significant relationships, ensuring their vitality and health. I cannot care for the church of God if I’m not watching out for and caring for myself first.

Paul’s last words, his encouragement deals with the precious role that the overseer serves in; his words carry more weight because the people he is challenging the elders to care for are people he knows by face and by name; he knows the intimate details of their lives, and wants God’s very best for them, all the while knowing that every one of them will have to fight their own good fight of faith, a fight that he knows just might hinge on the care, the training, and discipleship that their shepherds have invested in them.

I’m challenged to dig deep to what really matters, and to contend for that with the people I am privileged to lead. To speak the truth in love, and to hope the very best for each one, while at the same time, trusting that Christ, the Good Shepherd, will watch over us, and provide for our every need.

Thank You…

I was going through my notepads today, gathering all the notes for our next series we’re doing at church. Turns out I’ve written in 6 different notepads over the last month, intending each time, no doubt, to make THIS pad the one I’d use for the rest of my notations, thoughts, impressions, etc. I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to keep myself confined to 1 notepad; its not like I don’t have one in the binder that I carry everywhere with me in my trusty & oh-so-masculine European Man Bag. Its just that inspiration strikes & life happens at the most interesting times.

In notepad #3, one that I’d had with me in Germany a couple weeks ago, I found a note that I’d written to myself to make sure that I’d remember something spoken to me by someone at the Foursquare Deutschland conference on November 8… unfortunately, I don’t have a clue who it was that spoke it, just a few lines jotted down in my ‘fast-scribble’:

There’s a picture – its you (Louie) & you have a backpack that is full of a bunch of resources. You’re surrounded by people, & you’re giving away everything you have to all the people; they’re taking it away, & you’re so happy – you’re beaming with joy at being able to give everything away.

And then you’re alone. Happy.

And then Jesus comes to you, gives you a robe, a special set of clothes, & you walk away with Him, close, to spend time together. God is sharing His heart with you in a new & close way.

Take joy in the little things, & you’ll have a new joy in the LORD. Look to the little things, & see joy – new & not obvious things. You will receive joy in he LORD, & He will sustain you.

I don’t know who said this to me, but I am so glad that I had a random notepad with me to write this down, this impression & this picture. I’m encouraged & don’t really know why. I do know that I want to say, “Thank you” to whoever shared this with me. And to give a shout out to ME for not throwing away notepads. Booyah!

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #5

Jan picked me up as before & we made our way to his home in Gau Algesheim, a very rural town about 20 minutes or so out of Mainz. I’m a bit familiar with the place, as I spent some time there a couple of years back when I stayed there with my friends, Alex & Linda on the Laurenziberg, an expansive, rolling hill overlooking the town.

We immediately sat down to a quick lunch; barbecued chicken & rice. I couldn’t help but wonder if we were eating one of the neighborhood chickens… Our discussions over lunch & beyond centered on what is happening with Foursquare Germany. Jan told me of the “1/3” reality that exists, meaning that 1/3 of the churches are struggling, 1/3 are doing ok, 1/3 are thriving. He laid out some of the strategies he & his regional leaders are pursuing for the coming years, & went back & forth on some ideas about how the US church (our division/district specifically,) might be able to partner with them in their plans… to help & be a part by giving key resources (money, time, & people.)

Some things that stood out to me from our discussions:

    -There is a great desire & need in Germany for regional church planting centers, as that would also help with pastoral health & leadership development. Currently, there are no Foursquare churches in East Germany, & only 1 church of less than 20 people in the German capital, Berlin, a key & strategic city for Germany & for Europe.

    -The intention & focus of the leadership team is to plant a thriving, life-giving church in Berlin late Summer/Fall of 2011 by sending a pastoral team from one of the ‘thriving’ churches to Berlin to head it up. Jan is hopeful that outreach teams from other churches in Germany (& the US,) could come alongside for the ‘launch” of the church. One of the concerns they have is what will happen when the pastor of a ‘strong’ church leaves their current church & moves to Berlin – will there be a strong pastor & leader to replace the church planter so that the church left behind will continue to develop & thrive.

    -Our talks reminded me of the necessity to pray for workers – for people to declare the Good News, & also to be a part of the “making disciples.” The scripture that comes to mind is Matthew 9:38, when Jesus tells His disciples:

    The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Pray to the LORD Who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send out more workers for the harvest.

My heart was torn as I listened, & I’m determined to amp up praying for this.

In the late afternoon, the two of us took a walk through the vineyards, to & past the nearby Benedictine monastery, to a scenic overlook of the valley Gau Algesheim sits in. We spent some time there, under the waving flags of Germany & the European Union, talking & getting to know each other better. We discussed American & German politics; our wives & kids; the things we are most prone to struggle with, areas of weakness & temptation; what feeds our soul.

Back to the house for a quick bite (good bread & split pea soup, with a dash of vinegar to give it some extra bite,) & we made our way to Bingen, a town along the Rhein about 30 minutes away. We left a little early to be able to take a few minutes to walk through the tiny village.

Bingen is feeling the bite of the downturn of the economy – stores are empty, others are suffering as those that want to shop usually trek the extra few kilometers into Mainz or Frankfurt to buy what they want & need. It seems to me to be a town without identity – unremarkable. What I mean is that where many (most?) German cities have a distinctive downtown, with an open, spacious square & buildings restored to their 18th century look, Bingen is narrow, closed, & feels like being in an elevator; with the buildings reminiscent of 70s era Eastern bloc chic.

As usually happens, we found our way to an espresso bar & took turns pretending to be coffee aficionados. Pretending. ☺

Jumped into the car & found our way to the church. It’s an independent, non-affiliated fellowship that is looking to become adopted into Foursquare Germany. I asked Jan how this sort of thing happens here, as I know that Germans have a process for everything. I wasn’t disappointed.

The ‘adoption’ process is 3 years long; the 1st year is spent getting to know each other through hanging out together & attending Foursquare meetings & conferences. The 2nd year is more involved with specific, structured interactions, in-depth interviews, & examination on both sides. In the 3rd year, there are formal reviews, interviews, & a couple of month long evaluation by the regional leader, who at the end of the process, will make a recommendation, “yay” or “nay.” Then, the final decision on what happens is made by the Foursquare Germany board, consisting of the 4 regional leaders & the 1 national leader.

This church, the Brunnen Gemeinde (fellowship) is fairly established, & is unique in Germany in that they built & own their own church building. Nina, the pastor, is an olderish, motherly type woman who reminded me a lot of my mother-in-law, with her distinct & sweet singing voice, & quick, contagious laugh. The building itself was what theBean would say is “crisp & clean,” with an open layout, though in the sanctuary, the stage area took up almost 1/3 (!) of the entire sanctuary. There were about 10 of us total in attendance (the pastor, her husband, & some of the key leaders, Jan & I.) We gathered for worship, then made our way into a kitchen meeting room.

This time, I’d had a little more time to prep & more background info on the church for the talk I’d be giving. I was led to talk from Psalm 71 about passing on the great things God has done in, through, & around us. How it’s our responsibility to always be looking for those that Don’t Know yet – don’t know about the fingerprints God’s left on us personally & as a family. Don’t know what are we, who are we, & why are we. How this isn’t just the domain & responsibility of the individual & the family, but it’s also something that every church has to intentionally build into itself. It seems that the longer we’re in our church, & the more we ‘know” the history, the more likely we are to make the assumption & jump that others understand it in the same way that we do. We talked about different ways to bring these things up, talk about, rehearse & revisit them until they become a common thread woven into the fabric of our lives together.

I talked for about an hour, often referencing my own learning processes, shortcomings, struggles, & places where I had to grow, stretch, & be developed. Most poignant (to me) was the discussion on the pastoral role of ‘equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry;” growing in unity, & coming to maturity in the faith, as measured by us becoming like Christ. I reflected quite a bit on my & Hillside’s own journey through this process.

Then, there was another hour of questions – most in the vein of, “what & how” questions. A couple examples:

    -How do I find people to share my faith with? (Friends. Family. Co-workers. The people you see & interact with on a regular basis; those already in your life.)

    -What do you do if someone in the church doesn’t seem to want to grow or change in Christ? (Feed the hungry bird – meaning, spend as much time as you can with those that DO want to grow, that ARE there, that ARE looking to do whatever they can

    -Would you let someone who is knowingly in “bad sin” (their word) be on an after service prayer team? (No.) To which the response was a collective gasp. And Louie said, “Oops.” That wasn’t theoretical, was it?

After praying together, Jan & I made our way back to Gau Algesheim – the last couple of days have been a bit taxing, & both of us were pretty tired, but not ready for bed yet. So we sat in the darkness of his back patio, sipping a treasured 16 year old single malt, relaxing & talking about our favorite & most personally influential books, movies, & music. My kind of getting to know each other.

Finally, I made my way towards bed to try & catch a couple hours of sleep before starting my Friday. It was a great day, & I’m thankful for the growing relationship with Jan.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, #1-2

Sunday is a blur. TheBean whisked me away right after church to the airport, & we had the familiar experience of saying our goodbyes. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to them.

Once I was alone in the airport, surrounded by strangers, the familiar travel-brain kicked in. Pay attention to the announcements. Check all the Departure screens. Check them again. Hurry up & wait.

The layover in San Francisco was a robust 4 hours 20 minutes – an unavoidable inconvenience due to United cutting back on a few of their Reno/SF legs. Fortunately, playoff hoops was on, & the Gordon Biersch restaurant was serving…

Finally boarded the plane, & made my way back to my assigned seat, praying all the way. Praying for what, you might ask? For a small human to occupy the seat next to me. With emphasis on the word small. Makes the long eastward bound ‘sleep’ flight that much easier to bear.

Turns out, the flight was 11 hours long, as it was re-routed due to the so-famous-its-INfamous Ash Cloud. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I did manage to fit in about 7 total hours of sleep, mostly broken into 1 & 2 hour chunks. Better than the alternative, & I shall get good sleep tonight! So say we all!

Tonight, (as well as the week of Saturday, 1 May – 8 May,) I am staying with Eddy & Laura Dueck; he’s the pastor of our sister church in Frankfurt – they just moved into their new home in February after a pretty extensive remodel & reshaping to make the flat ‘reflect’ them. Took a bit to just relax & get settled in… & to get reacquainted with the Dueck’s 3 boys – Taylor 6; Elliot 3; & Max 2. To say that they have an active house would be an understatement. :)

Read a little, & then took a walk through the streets of Bockenheim (think Bistro Sahin, Subway, the White Tower, & the Rewe,) they live only a few blocks away from TPLF. So with our sister church as my North Start point of orientation, I know exactly where I am now. Which means I just may Run Real Fast in the morning. On purpose.

Eddy & Laura put the boys down, & went to a birthday party – meaning I’m the ‘on-call’ sitter. No sooner had they headed out, than #1 son Taylor made his way into the office where I’m writing & hung out with me for a while, sharing the kinds of stories that firstborns everywhere can relate to. Of little brothers. Getting to do things First. Feeling like a grown up at 6.

I DO plan on awakening refreshed in the morning – & will meet with Eddy to discuss my itinerary for the next couple of weeks. Then in the evening at 6 p.m. (meaning Tuesday at 9 a.m. PST,) I’ll be headed to Mainz to visit with Jan & Susanna von WIlle, & the church Jan pastors, enChristo. There shall be barbecue. And interaction & talks. I’m looking forward to it – it’s a great privilege to be able to spend time with people in their town, living life with them, hearing their stories. I love this place & these people.

Reflecting on the value of encouragement, not living self-focused, practicing thankfulness & thanksgiving, & being relentlessly committed to following Christ with everything, in every way. Praying for my family. Blessing the new life in Hillside (New Life = growth & CHANGE if you didn’t know.) Wondering what Jesus will bring my way.